The night sky lit up as another bolt ripped across the sky. Wind whipped the flags that stood as silent sentries above the tops of buildings, thrashing them about like a child playing with his toys. The grim faces of angels and gargoyles kept a stern watch over the people underneath, from the huge Roman-esqe figures downtown to the small cherubs and seraphim that decorated the columns along the streets of the sprawling city.

Over a hunching gargoyle there stood a woman, in a long black dress, looking down on a young couple as they walked beneath, watching them smile and laugh, not knowing that a small group of teenagers and not so young men followed them, shadowing their footsteps. But she saw them. She turned from the horns of the snarling monster beneath her and crept down the building's crumbling architecture, her dress billowing in the wind. Her long, wind whipped hair was a soft silver white, it had been since she was 16, like her mother before her. Her face was painted like a grinning skull, the cheekbones were her cheekbones, and the eye sockets followed her eye sockets, her dark blue eyes peering out of the endless black like twin sapphires.

She crouched over the edge of the railing, her hands resting against her thighs, where twin guns rested, tailor made to her specs, alien technology from some guy she commissioned in Keystone, though that was miles away from here, in New York. They didn't fire bullets, not exactly. Something more like pure energy, but not lasers. Lasers would be too easy to follow back to their source, too easy to fire back at wherever she'd hidden herself. Despite the fact that she was in this business, she valued her skin.

The group was almost below her now, the vibrations of their echoing footsteps tickling the soles of her feet through the thick black combat boots. Her costume was more bondage than elegant, without the dress she looked like some kind of dominatrix out of a masochist's wet dream. The long black gloves concealed the sinewy black dragons intertwined with roses of the same color that twisted up her arms, the collar had clips for her guns clipped to the rings. Two rings on either side of her hips held a long bungee cord and a shorter plain rope, though it was thin it was still strong enough to support her weight and then some, a small grappling hook that unfolded three prongs once it contacted anything hard, with an attachment so that it could be fired from her gun. Around both her thighs circled two sets of thin belts, containing strips of sterile cloth in case she got hurt, and small hooks threaded with surgical thread in case it was worse than just "hurt." She'd paid a visit to Gotham once, she'd taken notes watching the Batman - she doubted he'd seen her.

She eased the guns from their holsters and smiled, setting them to do stun damage. No use in killing these guys, though that was no doubt what they planned to do to the couple walking oblivious in front of them. She sighed quietly, waiting for the right moment, jumping as the last one slinked past her. She flung out the rope and its hook, connecting with the outstretched wing of a demon, and connected the end to her belt, stepping off the edge of the metal stairs, swinging out over the street, opening fire.

The young woman screamed and began to run, them man with her following suit. He sounded like his date.

She hit the other side lightly, her feet patting against the ridge of concrete that held a host of the higher demon's horde, their arms stretching out almost as if to catch her. She grabbed onto a clawed hand, turning quickly to strike down five more, leaving fewer than a handful to give her trouble. They, however, did know where she was, the spine in stark black and white showing plainly on her back, mimicking every movement she made, giving her away. They began to fire as she turned, and she grunted.

She took a bullet in the right leg, and another in her right arm, cursing as she felt the flesh rend. Looked like she'd have to get that dragon touched up - again. She fired again, knocking down three, the last standing aiming his gun at her carefully, his eyes narrowed. She felt an almost orgasmic shiver pass through her, the thrill of Death laughing in her face making her stop, staring him down. She saw the bullet before it ripped across her foot, shredding the skin from her, blood splattering across a devil's cloven foot, dying the stone red and causing her foot to feel like it was on fire, and she screamed, firing out her entire clip onto the man standing there in the street aiming for a second shot.

She watched him fall, 9 of them in all, including the one lucky one who'd managed to get that last shot off at her. She tied off the wound with a short piece of cloth from one of the small belts around her thigh, and hit a tiny button on the piece of metal at her waist that attached her to the rope hanging from the largest demon's wing, the hook letting go and falling down, the rope reeling in like fishing line. She dropped down to the street slowly, climbing down the bodies of demons and angels, finally slipping to the street, limping over to the man who'd shot her last.

She stood over him as he lay twitching on the ground, and sat on his stomach, draping her legs over someone next to her. She could see the fear in his eyes, and she smiled at him.

"Hello," she said softly, the wind whipping at her voice, tossing her hair around her like the arms of an octopus. She crossed her legs and removed a glove, revealing a ring upon her left hand. It covered three knuckles, something written in script, with a small design where her pinkie knuckle should have been showing. She reached into his pocket and removed his lighter and cigarettes, lighting one and holding up the ring to the flame of the lighter.

"This will hurt for just a second," she said sweetly, tossing the lighter over her shoulder. Her hands were still gloved from the wrist up so she wouldn't have to worry about things like fingerprints, and especially things like the heat from the now red ring. The man whimpered, unable to stop her, unable to talk. She grinned, the double set of teeth produced by the paint and her own smile creating a horrific image.

Shortly before he passed out, the man found enough of a voice to scream.

 

**********

 

"You're sure it was the ghost?" Detective Jarvison said, leaning over the arresting officer who was busying untying the ropes from one of the perp's wrists, snapping on handcuffs. A few of the EMTs on duty began to cut away his shirt, remarking on the bloodstains evident on the blue shirt.

"See for yourself," the girl said, pointing to the now shirtless man with long red hair who was screeching as a paramedic touched a cleansing sponge to his chest. In bright red angry lettering the word "Ghost" playing out in cursive, the tiny grinning skull beside it etched in dark red burnt human flesh. That guy'd carry that mark 'til he died.

Detective Jarvison shook his head and stamped out a cigarette, reaching under his hat to scratch at an itch on his balding scalp. At 6'4 and 25 years old, he cut an intimidating figure, thin as a rail but covered in wiry muscle. He'd made detective first time up, but they'd assigned him to the Ghost case, a case that'd gone on for the past three years. The only thing they knew about the Ghost for sure was that it was a she, or at least looked like one, and that she/he/it didn't buy their weapon at the local pawns shop.

Course in this age, few people did. He packed a little gun himself in the holster around his ankle, and it was definitely NOT police issue. Hell, it wasn't even PLANET issue.

"Fuckin' bitch coulda at least left a goddamn clue," he growled, and the female officer next to him scowled. He ignored her. In New York, you got used to ignoring people.

"Sir, we've found something," a man on one of the huge balconies overlooking the street called out, waving his arms. Jarvison looked at the woman done untying the ropes, noting her name.

"Officer Cleinan, come with me," he ordered, walking towards the small machine with its basket for lifting people. He'd seen this thing earlier this week, repairing his phone lines. He didn't trust it so far. They stepped in and hooked their belts to the sides; she whistling as it lifted them, his knuckles turning white as they rose from the ground, small beads of sweat telling of his fear of heights. It seemed an eternity before they reached the level, and the door swung open, officers hooking their belts up to a long cord that stretched from one side of the building to the other, just in case someone's balance up here wasn't as good as it should be. He'd lost an officer last week to that, and had insisted upon the lines after the guy'd ended up in traction.

"Sir?" Cleinan asked worriedly, touching his shoulder. He shook his head, took a steadying breath, and baby stepped over to the spot where the man had called him.

Well, I'll be damned, he thought, his fingers rubbing across his chin, his brain shutting out the fact that he was still high enough to kill him if he fell. The long splash of blood told him everything he needed to know, that he'd finally have her. But just in case, she'd left something even better. Hanging from a leering, tooth cleaning gargoyle's beak, a tiny thing no more than three or four inches long, barely an inch wide, was a thing strip of skin, it's ragged edges telling the story of a lucky shot.

Probably by that poor guy with the new birthmark, he chuckled.

Officer Cleinan looked at him again, as far as she knew, he'd never smiled a day in his life, hadn't even twitched a lip since being assigned to the Ghost's case. But his lips were split into a wide grin, as he pointed out the fluttering piece of something hanging off that sickening statue's nose, the other man's eyes going wide. She flinched as he delivered in the slow, deep, Southern Louisiana drawl that'd made him a rarity around here since he'd been transferred to a department full of brash Brooklyn and Queens voices, her own included.

"Got ya."